1. Welcome to NikonCafe.com—a friendly Nikon camera & photography discussion forum!

    If you are thinking of buying a camera or need help with your photos, you will find our forum members full of advice! Click here to join for free!

Flower shooting tips

Discussion in 'General Technical Discussion' started by mcampos, May 2, 2005.

  1. mcampos


    Apr 14, 2005
    Norwalk, CA

    Since moving to California I have noticed that opportunities to shoot beautiful flowers abound.

    I am using a D2H most of the times with a 17-55DX and even though I more often than not use spot metering I notice a tendency to blow the highlights. Going under helps, but the colors start getting muddled quickly.

    I wonder if there are any flower shooters here that can offer some tips on their approach.

    I will greatly appreciate your feedback.
  2. Ken-L

    Ken-L Guest

    Trial and error?

    I can't say I have any one way, because it depends on the subject, lighting, background, lens and conditions. I try to guess, try it, guess again, and repeat until one of them looks okay!


  3. I don't normally shoot flowers, but I imagine these are a few things to try:

    1. For a white (or nearly white) flower, spot meter on the brightly lit part of the white flower and apply +3EV. I imagine the DR of the D2H should place spot +3EV just at the top end of the histogram. If you're shooting RAW or have a low contrast tone comp and want to push the limit, maybe go for +3.3EV. Test it out for yourself to see how far you can push it.

    2. For most other type flowers, maybe go w/ center weighted metering. Adjust the size of center circle as needed. Depending on background, I guess you could apply +/- exposure comp. But I would recommend composing so that the overall background is never brighter than the target flower.

    3. Use the histogram and reshoot. Since flowers don't generally run away, :D  you can usually reshoot and make good use of the digital advantage. Just think of it as having access to a great metering tool for the first shot. Also, expose w/ intention to PP, if you don't do that already.

    4. Avoid compositions that require extreme DR across the subject. Sometimes, you just won't have enough DR for a good result. Try to get the shot, but if it doesn't work out, well, just bin it. I don't mean to suggest we get too sloppy here, but just that we should try to maximize what advantages digital offers us.

    5. And this is obviously a matter of personal taste, but go for more interesting compositions and POVs. :mrgreen: Honestly, exposure is quite easy to do since we have the kinds of advantages afforded by digital, so IMHO, we should really be more concerned about composition and such instead.

    Kind regards,

  4. Mike, SHHHHHH, don't tell anyone but some of us flower shooters have been known to hold the flower still with one hand (out of frame, of course) while shooting with the other if there's a breeze! *LOL* My attitude about flowers is that the pistols and stamens are the eyeballs, in other words, they should most definitely be in focus and then make a decision about the rest of the flower as far as DOF is concerned. HTH, Sandi
  5. LOL! What if you can't reach w/ your hand *or* can't do it w/out your hand showing up? :D 

  6. cwilt


    Apr 24, 2005
    Denver, CO
    I cheat and use a light meter some times. :wink:

    I have also been known to use a piece of thin wire to hold them still.
  7. _Man_: Clone, Man, clone!! *LOL* What on earth do you think Adobe invented it for!!???? You don't find any fingernails in my flower pics, do you!!?? LOL
  8. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005

    I like your analogy of the pistols and stamens. I guess I've sort of looked at it that way without thinking in those exact terms.

    Your approach is a good way to visualize flower shooting.
  9. That's true though I'm not all that fond of cloning, except in certain instances. :D  Maybe it's just that I don't have good technique for it. OTOH, I'm rather picky about the look of such effects and often find it hard to be convincing for me. I'd think cloning out a hand can be problematic unless you're just talking about a small part of a finger after much cropping for a macro-type photo -- but I'm generally not a macro kinda guy though. :D 

    And anyway, how would one manage to get a hold of this one to keep it steady? Kinda hard to do since it's hanging from a tree away from me, no? :D  And yes, I wanted *this* composition, not just any close-up shot of it. :D 

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    FWIW, as I said in my post over in the macro/flowers forum, I did have to clone out a couple distractions, but they were easy to do -- and did not involve any fingers/hands. :D 

    But I guess cwilt has the right idea w/ using a (long) thin wire. Guess I'll have to carry an unraveled wired cloths hanger w/ me everywhere I go. :wink:

  10. Iliah


    Jan 29, 2005
    when shooting strong-coloured objects in RAW for future processing in Nikon Capture, it usually helps o skew white balance pretty far to avoid clipping of dominant channel(s). Having neutral gray in a setup shot helps to restore white balance in Photoshop. Output colour space in Nikon Capture or ACR should be set to widest - ProPhoto in ACR, and in NC I use BetaRGB
    ( http://www.brucelindbloom.com )
  11. Hi, Mike! The root cause of the problem is, flower petals are highly reflective, so you've got a lot of dynamic range to cover if your specimen is in bright sunlight. Spot metering or adjusting exposure compensation helps, but as you've noted, results in underexposure of the non-shiny areas.

    A better solution is to look for specimens that are in open shade. Often that requires a long shutter speed, so I use a tripod, or a mini-tripod for blossoms that are low to the ground. That allows me to retain the detail in the petals, even for white flowers. I also often use a dark foam core backdrop, to help isolate the flowers from busy backgrounds.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    View attachment 8125

    View attachment 8126
  12. Iliah


    Jan 29, 2005
    Frank, beautiful photos.

    Have you tried polarizing filters to shoot flowers?
  13. Thanks, Iliah. I haven't tried a CP, but I really should... particularly with orchids since they're so reflective in the UV range. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Open shade seems to solve most of my problems, though. It works really well for table top work.

    View attachment 8128
  14. mcampos


    Apr 14, 2005
    Norwalk, CA
    Thanks all for all your excellent feedback, now I have to to out to play.

    Ken and Frank, very impressive images.

    Let me see if this works. This image is from my D2H and all I did was crop it and sharpen it a bit. Part of the highlights seem blown out to me. What is your opinion?

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

  15. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Beautiful Flower.......

    Yes I see a bit of blown out areas.

    Try different angle. Different time of day. Mornings early are great. If you had ,lowered the ev on this I think it would have been to dark.. Different light i think is your answer.

    Other than that it looks great.

    Takes mucho practice. I have a hard time evaluating light. Just don't see it, Till it is to late snd someone tells me.
  16. mcampos


    Apr 14, 2005
    Norwalk, CA
    Thanks Dale,

    I think you hit the nail on the head, trying different light with less dynamic range may be the only solution.

    These flowers were beautiful and I happen to be there close to noon. The background is too busy, but I probably could have done something about it in PS.
  17. Charles,

    I too use a light meter for outside shots due to shadows and wanting the right aperture.
  18. cwilt


    Apr 24, 2005
    Denver, CO

    You might want to try a diffusion panel to soften the light in situations like these. Much like you would do for a portrait outdoors in harsh light.

    I use a photoflex 5-in-1 reflector. Very handy to have.
  19. mcampos


    Apr 14, 2005
    Norwalk, CA
    Thanks Charles,

    Do you use the reflector to block light from the highlights or to add light in the dark areas?

    Whatever you are doing it is working great, your flower shots are outstanding.
  20. What I think about when shooting flowers

    You're all worrying about a lot of the same things I do, particularly blown highlights. Because Mom Nature optimized flowers to attract insects (propagation depends on them) flowers reflect enormous amounts of infrared and UV light. Insect eyes are much more sensitive to those parts of the spectrum, with some insects relying almost completely on UV to zero in on the best flowers. That's a big part of what makes them so hard to shoot. Anybody who's shot orchids in strong light will have noticed what looks like little shiny speckles all over the flower that are blown out even though you worked really hard to get detail in the white areas that you could see. The sensor sees spectrum you don't see - those little speckles are reflective crystals (for want of a better word) that reflect UV really efficiently. You usually can only see them once you get the flower up full screen. Causes much cursing in my house.

    With flowers, I do something that I seldom do with any other subject, which is consciously underexpose and pull the images up in processing. Yes, it produces a smaller dynamic range, usually, and makes images look a lot more saturated, neither of which bother me at all with flowers. Doing this can actually produce images with saturation so intense that you'll have trouble printing them, out of gamut warnings everywhere, unless you use a perfect paper/ink combo. But it does produce gorgeous, rich images.

    I also learned to bracket depth of field options - I almost always shoot one or two images fully stopped down for max depth of field, and a few with various different DOF, right down to as wide open as the light will let me go. I don't think there's any right answer here, and because DOF preview is often so dark you can't really see much anyhow, I'm not sure of any other approach. This lets me make a choice between high and low DOF in a more relaxed, thoughtful mode than trying to think about it while rushing to beat the changing light.

    The other thing I do all the time is shoot with flash, usually highly diffused. This makes the IR and UV problem worse sometimes (flash is full of IR and UV) but gives me more range for isolating the flower from the background (use a high shutter speed with small aperture, and everything outside of the flash range will be black, which saves me from carrying around foam core), working without a tripod (ditto ditto), etc. With the flash, I sometimes reinforce the sunlight direction for dense shadows, sometimes shoot with an emphasis on shadow fill. If you see a guy out there with camera in right hand, flash on a long cord in left, contorted into absurd positions to get both items at the right angles, that's me.

    Last, I don't like to spray the flowers, or use backdrops, or move leaves, or any of those sorts of things. To use an analogy, I feel like those things are like fishing in your swimming pool, not sporting at all. Now THAT is a pure quirk. Doesn't even make sense, really. But I never said I wasn't weird.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.